Thursday – a teacher in Eastern Virginia was fired for something he wouldn’t say.
For religious reasons, Peter Vlaming wanted to hold his tongue.
He even agreed to compromise where he could.
But that wasn’t enough for school officials who apparently wanted him gone.
For Religious Reasons, Virginia Teacher Declines a Student’s New Pronouns
Mr. Vlaming is a French Teacher at West Point High School with a student who now identifies as a male.
Vlaming, a Christian man, said he couldn’t go against his faith and condone the change.
But he was willing to go halfway.
Vlaming agreed to use the student’s new male name.
And rather than use female pronouns, Vlaming would simply avoid using pronouns for this student at all.
In fact, Vlaming spoke in his defense during the school board hearing to state just that.
“Vlaming said he loves and respects all his students and had tried to reach a solution based on ‘mutual tolerance.’ That effort was rejected, he said, putting him at risk of losing his job” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.1
However, that still wasn’t enough.
In fact, Vlaming was forced to choose between following his religion or keeping his job.
“That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”1
Vlaming’s Beliefs Apparently Not a Factor in His Firing
Despite Valming’s compromise, school officials weren’t happy.
The student reported feeling uncomfortable with the situation.
Administrators came to Vlaming stating he must use male pronouns.
Despite his Christian faith, he was not permitted to treat one student differently than the rest.
Even if it was Vlaming’s best attempt at being respectful.
If possible, a better resolution may have been allowing the student to switch classes.
But that wasn’t the fix school officials had in mind.
Despite Community Support, Vlaming is Given the Axe
School administrators started the process by recommending that Vlaming be fired.
They cited school policies on harassment and non-discrimination.
But Vlaming’s lawyer, Shawn Voyles, states the officials may not have ground to stand on.
Although the school policies were updated one year ago to include gender identity, Voyles states no specific guidelines for use or non-use of gender pronouns exists.1
It’s true when Voyles says that even public employees like Mr. Vlaming have constitutional rights.
“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” Voyles told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Whether Vlaming has a wrongful termination case or not, he appears to be well loved by the community.
When the School Board held his termination hearing, the room overflowed, largely with Vlaming’s supporters.
The parents and students backing Vlaming described him as a role model.
School officials had banned signs from the hearing room.
So the collection of “Justice for Mr. Vlaming” signs remained outside.
Also, an online petition in support of Vlaming, titled “Don’t terminate Mr. Vlaming,” picked up more than 1,000 signatures, as reported by Richmond ABC affiliate WRIC.2
Despite his widespread support, the School Board ultimately fired Mr. Vlaming with a 5-0 vote.
Immediately after the story broke, many online commenters were calling for the Board to be replaced in the next election
But for now, the question is whether he will bring a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
“I have to research how we would do that, what that would entail,” Vlaming told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I do think it’s a serious question of First Amendment rights.”1
What do you think?
Was Peter Vlaming within his rights to refuse to use the new pronouns?
Or should teachers of faith keep their religion out of the classroom?
Let us know in the comments section below!